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Automotive design language (photos)

Automakers put a unique imprint on their vehicles, in the best cases giving them a look that will let anyone seeing the car know who makes it. And some automakers go so far as to give their design language an overall phrase to help focus the theme. Here are nine automakers' specific design elements.

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Wayne Cunningham
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1 of 15 Mercedes-Benz
Automotive designers spend years coming up with the look for each new model. They style every inch of the car and have to consider not only modern trends but also the heritage of the brand. Many chief designers also try to come up with a common theme for the many models produced by a single brand. Some even come up with fancy phrases to describe the design language for a brand. Here are nine notable examples of that brand language and individual elements of design language.
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2 of 15 Acura

Acura Keen Edge

Acura calls its design language Keen Edge, and it can be seen throughout the company's vehicles. This theme is characterized by a few sharp lines in the body, especially around the belt line.
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3 of 15 Acura

Acura Keen Edge

The most notable feature of Keen Edge is the grille treatment, which uses this prominently angled badge holder over a narrow intake. The rear end of the Acura models shows a more subtle, but similar angle.
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4 of 15 BMW

BMW Hofmeister Kink

Rather than an overall theme, the Hofmeister Kink is a design element of BMW models seen since the 1960s. At times more angular, currently a little curved, the Hofmeister Kink, named after former BMW designer Wilhelm Hofmeister, is the rear-leaning line where the glass meets the C pillar, which comes up to the roofline.
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5 of 15 Cadillac

Cadillac Art and Science

Cadillac has been a strong leader in automotive design, terming its very unique style Art and Science. This look involves very strong, sharp lines along the fenders, and has seen use across the Cadillac lineup. The grille gets a very angular treatment that complements the sidelines.
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6 of 15 Cadillac

Cadillac Art and Science

The CTS Coupe is a good example of the extremes of this design language. The rectangular back glass sits between two rails that show near-uniform width along their run, and meet the tail light casing, which continues the line.
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7 of 15 Ford

Ford Kinetic Design

When Ford began showing concepts for what would become the new Fiesta, it launched its Kinetic Design language. This style uses creases and lines in the sides of the car angled down toward the front. The intention is to give the car a look of going forward even when it is standing still.
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8 of 15 Ford

Ford Kinetic Design

This 2012 Focus shows how the style carries across models. Similar to on the Fiesta, the sidelines flow toward the pronounced front fender arch. The hood also starts out high at the windshield, running down toward the grille, again conveying the idea that the car is moving forward.
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9 of 15 Hyundai

Hyundai Fluidic Sculpture

Hyundai calls its design language Fluidic Sculpture, a style that can be seen in the almost liquid look of the new Sonata. The strong side crease flows in a slight curve forward at door handle height. The headlights and grille flow down toward the bumper.
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10 of 15 Hyundai

Hyundai Fluidic Sculpture

Although not as prominently, the Hyundai Genesis Coupe shows this design language as well. It is mostly seen in the broken belt line, both pieces of which flow forward.
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11 of 15 Jeep

Jeep 7 slot grille

A lot of design effort is put into vehicle grilles, generally the most noticeable element of a car. Jeep's strong heritage is reflected in the seven-slot grille, a common element of Jeep vehicles for decades.
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12 of 15 Kia

Kia Tiger Nose

Kia refers to its current grille design as the Tiger Nose. This design consists of two tabs, one up and one down, in the middle of the grille and pointing at the badge. Kia has very quickly redesigned every model in its lineup to show a common look.
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13 of 15 Lexus

Lexus L-Finesse

Lexus' L-Finesse design language uses subtle creases and curves in the sides of its vehicles, punctuated by more prominent angular elements. In the case of this CT 200h, the nearly invisible belt line curves up to the C pillar, which leads up to the angular rear spoiler.
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14 of 15 Lexus

Lexus L-Finesse

Another example of L-Finesse is the grille in the RX 350, the chrome bezel of which leads out at the top corners all the way to the headlight casings.
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15 of 15 Mazda

Mazda Kodo

Mazda recently released renderings of this concept car, showing off a new styling language it calls Kodo, which means Soul of Motion. Similar to Ford's Kinetic Design, Kodo strives to make the car look like it is moving forward.

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